I was thinking of my friend Joe today. He was witty, compassionate, caring and a recovering addict. His spiritual counseling practice was growing, he was seeing someone and then one day he slipped. He spent a brief period doing his drug of choice and then faced the wall of shame and grief that happens when you know you have to make your way back to sobriety.
Day three of that journey is the worst. He didn’t make it.
In his choice to end his own life he ended his own suffering and caused it in many of us. We wondered what else we could have done to help. We wondered if we were next. We just wondered.
I do not believe that suicide is evil or selfish. In fact I believe it is just a symptom of a greater malady. Despair, hopelessness and depression are every day life for many people. They continually suffer, sometimes in silence and sometimes loudly, acting out their personal struggle according to their body chemistry, family history and ability to ask for & receive help. A dear friend once told me that for her, “Suicide will always be an option.” To this day I remember exactly where I was when she said it. She was casual, matter of fact and deadly serious. It scared me to the bone.
Many times I have walked through the suicide of a friend. It leaves me in a mess of sadness, frustration, gratitude and fear. I miss each of these people to this day and am saddened by their absence in my life. I am grateful that I no longer have the special cocktail of circumstances that would add me to their ranks. I am fearful that as a society we are doing pathetically little to help people before they make this decision.
But is it really a decision? Research tells us that most often the precipitating cause of suicide is mental illness. Last time I checked when you are mentally ill, your decisions are suspect and yet we fail to fund necessary resources to appropriately intervene when people are in trouble. There are clear risk factors for people dealing with the desire to end their own life:
There is no shortage of research on suicide, its causes or treatments. What we lack as a society is the will to take a stand against this epidemic. An April, 2016 study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that suicide rates have been on the rise in the United States for 30 years. The greatest increase is in females from 10-14 and men from 45-64. We have to ask ourselves why.
My spirituality tells me that I can never truly be separated from those who have moved on to some other form of existence. They are present in my memories and in the world around me. Personally though, I’d like to test that theory less and reduce the suffering of those struggling with this decision.
Prayer and meditation in these circumstances are not enough. If you or someone you know is struggling with this battle, reach out. Help is available. We’d like you to stay with us. Your story isn’t over yet. Mine certainly wasn’t.
Prevention, Awareness and Support